Wizardry and Witchcraft in Nigeria Real or Not

John Otim


Having lived and worked in Nigeria for a long time. And now living and working in Uganda. I get asked this question a lot. Is juju for real in Nigeria? I usually brush it off and disdainfully too! Of all the questions you could ask about Nigeria, this is the one you must ask me? Get off!

“Listen! there is witchcraft everywhere. There is witchcraft right here where you are standing. Why not put the question to yourself! About witchcraft in your own village? About witchcraft in your own town? Whatever!” People are surprised at the heat. “The man is pissed!” They mummer and disappear. Good riddance! And I move on with my own business.


But the other day I was not that snooty. And I was patient! And I was polite. I surprised myself. But tell me, when suddenly a group of elegant women have you cornered, and you can see it in their eyes, that they are in earnest! What choice does a man have in that situation?

That cool evening, with the new moon rising, and we seated out on the lawn in the open. I found myself talking about some of the things I heard and knew about while I lived and worked in Nigeria. Things I had not told anyone before. Such is the power of women.

Suddenly there I was, an adventurer at the outer limits of the universe where none had been before. And now I was back and here were all these curious people waiting to hear what I had to say. At such moments words just flowed out of my mouth. Like the Nile waters gushing out at the Karuma Falls.

“In Nigeria, people take witchcraft for a given, that you must understand” I began my story. “They believe it exists. They feel it is real. And they take precaution.” I was in my element. Who will not be when pretty eyes are upon you. “Many Nigerians, including the most educated, and the most highly placed, wear things that they believe, provide them with immunity to hostile acts of wizardry.  People wear medicated rings, they  wear medicated bracelets, medicated necklaces, medicated belts. Most times, all these paraphernalia just look normal. A fashion. A style. A trend! 

“A medicated gear, is a wearable that a juju man has worked upon, performed certain rituals upon, whatever. Wizardry is obsessed with the strange and the unusual. Ask J K Rolling or read The Philospher's Stone.

“A colleague on the campus where I taught once held up his hand and showed me the ring on his index finger.” My audience followed every word I spoke. “The man showed me his ring and with pride too. Was I supposed to admire it, I wondered! I didn’t know. But I blurted out. ‘What an ugly ring!’ Foolish me.

“But you know, the ring was so plain and it was made of cheap metal. Now my friend was suddenly alarmed. He rebuked me. ‘Be careful my friend! You see, my mother made this ring for me. And you see, it is no ordinary ring. Because you see, as I wear it no harm will ever come to me.’ My friend said.

“Was my friend’s mother a juju woman? I apologized instantly to him for insulting the ring that his mother made for him.”

Thus, I told my story. And the women listened and wanted more. And before I knew it, I was talking about Grace. Grace is my old girlfriend. Grace was a great girl. Grace reminded me of that song. ‘Something in the way she moves, attracts me line no other lover …’ Grace had the moves. In this i believe she was the champion of the world.

“Grace was beautiful. It was the reason we got together in the first place. Grace had been a beauty queen at the University of Benin. In ancient times Benin had been the capital of a great and proud African Empire. The Benin Empire. But that is another story.” And now the moon was getting brighter. My listeners followed every word I spoke.

“Grace had moved from the south and had come north of their huge country. Grace and I hit it off right away. There were no preliminaries.” I pushed on with my story. “Everything was going for us. We upgraded our relationship. What else could we do or not do! But something happened and in the crisis that ensured, I found out that I really didn’t know Grace. To cut a long story short, we parted ways. And cantankerously too. With her swearing and hurling insults. This was something in which she was also a world champion. Hurling insults. But at that same moment when most girls would look like monsters, Grace looked dazzling. But I was determined, I wasn’t going to do the ‘Oh Carol’ thing. With me it matters terribly what a girl does.

“Weeks passed. Months passed. I was enjoying my new found liberty. I was like an African country that swings from one coup d’état to another coup d’état, Insanely joyous at the beginning of a new regime, but soon terribly miserable.


“One day as I slept alone in my bed in my small apartment on the third floor, I felt a presence in the room. Soon something knocked me off my bed. And now we were wrestling together on the floor. Whatever it was, was fully three dimensional. No doubt about that, and it was a woman, and she was fully naked. And she looked uncannily like Grace. But that could have been an illusion. Anyhow, the thing gave me a few dirty slaps and suddenly it was gone. Till today I ask myself the question. Did I dream this up? I don’t know.

“I woke up late that morning with a severe headache and pain all over my body. Which was something very unusual with me. I settled down to a cup of tea, bread, and marmalade, and was beginning to feel better. I was enjoying the constant prattle of birds on the trees that surround our apartment. Suddenly there was a knock on the door and Grace appeared! Grace was all smiles and was dressed up and was as beautiful as ever. She swung on her heels, and turned, round and round, as if to say: 'see what you are missing, fool!'

“‘Hey!’ she was saying as she leaned over so that our brows touched. ‘From today, we shall be together again, you and me, just like before.’ Grace smiled. ‘I am moving in!’ Grace announced. And I suddenly felt hot. And I heard my voice say: ‘Grace! I shall not have you back. You know that!’ The next moment was right out of hell. Grace rocked and upset the entire house. Braking things! Neighbors rushed over. ‘Were we okay!’. By now Grace was at the door, on her way out, still yelling: ‘Foolish man! I will deal with you! You don't know me!’” (To be continued)